There are people among us who will be spending the holiday this Thursday in tents. One such group will be the Occupy protesters, people who feel so strongly about the need to change this country that they are willingly giving up the day-to-day comforts of home to make their point! Another group of people, willingly spending the holiday in tents, are our American soldiers overseas. These are men and women who hold their beliefs so strongly that they have given up home and hearth as well, to be where their call of duty takes them. I am overwhelmingly grateful for both of these groups this holiday season.
There are also those people who will spend this holiday in tents or other temporary shelters, not because they wish to, but because they have no other choice. There have always been those among us who have no place to call home. There have always been those among us sleeping in the parks. There has always been economic disparity. The difference was it affected far less of us than it does today. There have also always been those in government who have reacted the same way many are reacting now. In the absence of ways to solve the problem, they chose to just relocate it. Make them move on. Keep it out of sight, finish your shift, and then go home to your own holiday meal.
This Thanksgiving will be my first since giving up meat. This will be the first year I don’t actually eat any turkey. Of course, there have been many Thanksgivings where I have made vegetarian options as several of my children are vegetarians. However, this is my first one. My mother is concerned, “what is Thanksgiving without the turkey?”
For me, Thanksgiving without the turkey will be many things. It will be a day to be grateful for a life full of love, laughter and grace. It will be a time to remember family far away. It will be a day to remember loved ones who are no longer with us and who are deeply missed. It will be a day to reflect on holidays past. It is a day of memories. I will remember the year my dad cooked the turkey upside down and we all blamed it on the pre-holiday partying but it was the most delicious, moist turkey we ever had. Now people cook them upside down on purpose. I will remember my grandmother, staying up late the night before and using a hand cranked meat grinder to make her famous delicious stuffing that I have never been able to duplicate.
I will remember the days when my children were small and Thanksgiving Day parades on TV still held so much magic. I will remember the year the children’s father and I raised our own turkeys and sold them all to our neighbors, saving just one for ourselves for the upcoming holiday, and the dog got to it before we did. We were the only family on our street eating a store-bought turkey that year! I will remember the very first year I met my best friend. We were both new to Maine, she from New York and me from Rhode Island. We were both so far from home. We didn’t even know each other but we decided to share Thanksgiving together and from that day on we were family, over 22 years ago. I will remember the year my son spent Thanksgiving in Baghdad and it was all I could do not to cry through our entire meal.
I will remember this Thanksgiving that there are people in tents. I will remember there are people in them because of life’s circumstances and it is only through grace and luck that am I not among them. I will remember that there are people in tents because they are fighting for our freedom in cities all over this country and people in tents because they are fighting for everyone’s freedoms, all over the world. And I will remember this week, to take a moment to say “thank you” to them, all of them, with or without the turkey.